A Phoenix police officer was in critical condition Thursday night after being shot during a traffic stop, officials said.
The suspect who fired also was shot when the officer returned gunfire, said Phoenix police Sgt. Mercedes Fortune.
The shooting took place about 8 p.m. at Cave Creek and Cactus roads, Fortune said.
The officer, who has been with the department about 1½ years, was in a marked police vehicle and was attempting to stop a vehicle near the intersection, Fortune said.
Witnesses told police that when the vehicle stopped, a man inside fired shots at the officer, striking him, Fortune said.
The officer was able to return fire and shoot the suspect, Fortune added.
Both were taken to a hospital and both were in critical condition Thursday night, Fortune said.
Fortune could not confirm how many times the officer was shot.
No other suspect was being sought.
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams spoke to reporters about 10:45 p.m. outside Honor John C. Lincoln Medical Center at Dunlap Avenue and Third Street.
“In my opinion, I believe he was ambushed,” Williams said. She added that representatives of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association were waiting with family members for updates on the officer’s condition.
PLEA officials said though the officer was in critical condition, he was stable.
Williams said the shooting was another example of an increased level of violence that Phoenix officers have encountered, especially involving people with firearms.
There was a 45 percent increase in the number of assaults on Phoenix police officers in the first five months of this year, compared with the same period in 2017, data the department provided to The Arizona Republic shows.
Of the 419 documented assault cases, suspects punched, charged toward, shot at or spit on officers. There were 288 assaults on police January through May last year, data shows.
There has also been a spike in assaults where the suspect was also armed. One out of every 24 assaults on Phoenix police in the first five months of 2017 involved a suspect armed with a gun, department data shows.
“This is a serious issue. We’re taking it seriously,” Williams said, noting a $149,000 study has been initiated to examine the spike in Phoenix police-related shootings this year.
The shooting was the 66th involving a law-enforcement officer in Maricopa County this year, and the 34th involving Phoenix police, according to a count maintained by The Arizona Republic.
There were 21 Phoenix Police Department shootings in 2017; 25 in 2016; and 17 in 2015, department data shows.
Williams said Thursday’s shooting shows how officers never know when they may encounter a violent person.
“They don’t know when they make a traffic stop what’s going to happen in that traffic stop,” she said. “But at the same time, day in and day out, they get up, they put this uniform on, they put a vest on, and they go out and protect this community.”
A heavy police presence remained at the intersection, which was closed to traffic, just before 10 p.m. Some of the activity was centered at a nearby Circle K store and gas station.